Warmer weather is in the forecast, but it's been a cold, wet and gloomy first week of January. Which mean you're probably craving soup.
I've been making all kinds of soups since the first hint of fall arrived in October, and my favorite new trick so far has been making extra crispy potato skins to crumble as a topping for potato-based soups and stews. This discovery isn't exactly as revolutionary as, say, figuring out that the water from soaked chickpeas can be used as a thickener to replace eggs, but I am of the opinion that every culinary discovery is worth celebrating, no matter how seemingly small or insignificant.
Potato skins, especially on russets, are so full of flavor and nutrition that I almost always leave them on, especially on baked potatoes, so I can savor their rough texture and earthy flavor. Twice-baked potatoes capitalize on the hearty structure that a baked potato skin can add to a dish, but what if you isolated the skins all by themselves? That was the idea a few weeks ago when I set out to make a creamy, smooth baked potato soup that didn't contain any skins in the soup itself.
After smothering the russet potatoes in olive oil and salt and baking them at 425 degrees until I could poke them easily with a fork, I scooped out the fleshy insides and added them to a stock pot with sauteed onions, garlic, butter and chicken stock. As I continued to cook the soup, I turned my attention to the scooped-out potato skins sitting on the baking sheet.
I rubbed a little more olive oil on them, added another sprinkle of salt and put them back in the oven for another 10 minutes until they were even crispier. To break the skins into big, flaky pieces that could go on the soup, I used kitchen scissors to keep the potato skins from flying all over the stove and put them in a bowl alongside the other toppings: shredded cheese, scallions and sour cream.
As my family gathered to enjoy the cozy meal together, everyone went straight for the potato skins, which were almost like potato skin chips at this point.
You could take this potato skin chip idea and apply it to all kinds of dishes and potatoes. If you're peeling potatoes for a dish, you could toss them in olive oil and salt and bake by themselves. Sweet potato chips are even hardier than russet potatoes and would make an excellent topping for a casserole or macaroni and cheese. You could even use crispy potato skins on a salad, much like tortilla strips or croutons.